Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Chicken

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The province of Chieti is a located in the Abruzzo region on the eastern coast of Italy. The province is hilly and mountainous with many valleys that run along the rivers and creeks. The northern part of the province is pretty desolate, while the southern part is dotted with numerous tiny villages.

The province has  quite a history.

It was first settled by the Osci people around 1000 BCE. The area was also lived in by the Greeks, who named it Teate. The province and surrounding areas were conquered by the Romans in 305 BCE, but after the fall of Rome in 476 CE, it became a Lombard fortress. The area had been occupied by the Franks, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins and Aragonese rulers until it was taken over by Charles V of France. Later, it was ruled by the House of Bourbon.

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The Caracciolo nobility rebuilt the area of Chieti in Medieval times. Ferrante Caracciolo began teaching his house staff his cooking techniques, a tradition that continued within the noble family’s household for centuries. Many of the well-trained cooks were sent all over Italy and to other countries to work for royalty and heads of state. This training led to the creation of Villa Santa Maria’s culinary and hotel management school. Every year in October the province is host to La Festa dei Cuochi (the Cook’s Festival) in which locals and visitors from the world over gather to celebrate the local cuisine.

During World War II, the area was the place of a battle between German and predominantly British and Canadian forces where over 2,000 civilians died and many of the towns were  destroyed.

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The area is well-known for growing saffron but it has a different flavor from the saffron used in Spain. The first saffron bulbs were brought to Italy in 1400 by a Dominican friar named Santucci,  who brought them from his birthplace in Spain. He successfully planted the bulbs in his monastery garden and the spice was used to flavor sauces and as a curative herb.

During the autumn harvest, the first presses from the olives are often infused with chili. This is known locally as olio santo or holy oil and used on the table during meals. To experience the significance of this spicy ingredient in the region’s cuisine, visit their famous chili festival held in late August in the small town of Filetto in the province of Chieti.

Lamb is the predominate meat in cooking, vegetables are abundant and there are a large variety of herbs and the use of hot pepper called Peperoncino. Seafood dishes include fish stews, fried fish and fish sauces served over pasta, as well as fresh-water fish, mountain trout and river shrimp.

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This is a cheese loving land and they produce a number of cheeses, many of them flavored with the local herbs. Among the most famous cheeses are provolone, both mild and strong, ricotta and pecorino (made with sheep’s milk).

Desserts tend to be simple and include torroncini (a hard candy), pies and cookies often flavored with amaretto, dried figs, cinnamon, chocolate and  pine-nuts.

And not to be forgotten are the fine regional wines, such as the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the whites Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Local liqueurs are also very famous, particularly the Amaro Abruzzese.

Italian Seafood Salad

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Serves 8

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Seafood:

  • 1 1/2 lbs calamari rings
  • 1 1/2 lbs small fresh shrimp, peeled
  • 1 1/2 lbs bay (small) scallops
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 3 lemons

Salad:

  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped yellow and red bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • Freshly ground black pepper for garnish

Directions

Combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.

In a large pot combine 10 cups water, the wine, bay leaves and crushed garlic. Cut the 3 lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the shrimp. Cook 2 minutes, then remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon or spider and place in a serving bowl.

Repeat the procedure with the calamari, cook 2 minutes and remove to the bowl with the shrimp.

Repeat the procedure with the scallops, cook 2 minutes and remove the scallops to the bowl with the shrimp and calamari.

Be sure to drain off any water that has collected in the bowl and return the fish to the bowl.

Add the celery and the peppers to the seafood, season with salt and pepper and pour the dressing over the mixture. Mix well, cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for at least six hours.

Just before serving, toss the salad and add the parsley and basil. Garnish with black pepper and serve with the lemon wedges.

Crepes in Broth (Crespelle-en-brodo)

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Broth:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 lb chicken wings
  • 1 lb beef bones
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 plum tomato, cored and halved

Crepes:

  • 1/4 cup minced parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

Directions

Make the broth:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken wings and beef bones until browned, 35–40 minutes; transfer to a bowl.

Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic to pan; cook until golden, 6–8 minutes. Return wings and bones to pan. Add parsley, bay leaf, tomato and 20 cups water; simmer, skimming as needed, for 4 hours.

Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan; keep warm.

Make the crepes:

Whisk the parsley, flour, cheese, oil, nutmeg, eggs and 1 cup water in a bowl until smooth.

Heat an 8″ nonstick skillet over medium-high. Working in batches, pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into the skillet while tilting the skillet to let the batter cover the bottom completely.

Cook until the crepe is golden on the bottom, 1–2 minutes. Turn and cook 1 minute more; transfer to a plate. Roll each crepe into a cigar shape.

To serve:

Divide the rolled crepes among soup bowls and ladle reserved broth over the top; garnish with parsley, Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lamb Ragu

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This type of sauce is usually served over spaghetti alla chitarra, a regional pasta that is shaped on a tool that resembles a guitar. Since most of us do not have such a tool, bucatini or perciatelli pasta is just fine.

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (15 oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 1 lb spaghetti alla chitarra or thick spaghetti
  • Grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish

Directions

Heat oil in a 6-quartt saucepan over medium-high. Cook lamb, stirring and breaking up the meat into small pieces, until browned, 6–8 minutes.

Add bay leaves and garlic; cook until garlic is golden, 2 minutes.

Stir in wine; cook until reduced by half, 2–3 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 35–40 minutes. Stir in peppers; cook until peppers are tender but not falling apart, about 4 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, 10–12 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to the pan with the sauce. Using tongs, toss the pasta in the sauce. Divide pasta among serving bowls and garnish with pecorino cheese.

Ricotta Fiadoni

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Ingredients

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 8 ounces (200 g) fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup candied fruit
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 shots rum
  • 2 tablespoons anise seed
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for the topping

Directions

Combine the 4 whole eggs, half the rum, half the anise, vanilla, lemon zest, the 1 tablespoon of sugar, the baking powder, and sufficient flour to make a homogeneous dough.

Combine the egg yolks, remaining rum and anise, raisins and candied fruit in a bowl, stirring well to mix thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Roll out the dough slightly less than 1/4-inch thick and cut out rounds with a round cutter or a glass. Place a tablespoon of filling on each round and fold them over to make half-moons. Seal edges with a fork.

Lightly beat the remaining egg white, brush the half-moons with it, sprinkle with sugar and transfer them to an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minute until golden brown.

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Rooting for your team is fun, but thinking about what you eat while watching the game and the commercials is just as important. According to USA Today, the Super Bowl is “only second behind Thanksgiving for the average amount of calories consumed in a day.”

Super Bowl day is prime time for forgetting about eating healthy. From high-fat dips to buffalo wings, it is an endless array of food, food, food and more food. Part of the fun, though, is to be able to snack during the game.

Revamp your old favorites by making them healthier and introducing a few new ideas into your menu. You’ll be able to root for your team without going overboard on fat, calories and salt.

Here are some ideas for doing just that:

The standard bowls of potato chips, tortilla chips and high-fat dips don’t deserve a place in your healthy lineup of snacks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy chips and dip.

  • Skip creamy artichoke and spinach dips in favor of hummus, which pairs well with baked pita chips.
  • Mash fresh avocados with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and lime juice for a potassium-rich guacamole that pairs well with baked tortilla chips.
  • Puree low-sodium canned beans with olive oil and garlic powder for a dip rich in fiber and protein.
  • Make a healthy ranch dip using low-fat sour cream and a reduced-sodium packet of ranch dip powder.
  • Create a visually appealing layered dip with low-sodium mashed beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, low-fat sour cream and reduced-fat cheddar cheese.

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Set out fruit and vegetable platters on your snack table. Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories but also supply potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber. You will be surprised at how guests reach for these snacks.

  • Arrange grapes, berries, melon, apples and oranges on a plate and serve them with flavored low-fat yogurt for dipping.
  • Make colorful vegetable kebabs by threading pieces of bell pepper, mushrooms, red onion and zucchini onto skewers.

Hot dogs, sausages and fried hot wings are common additions to a Super Bowl snack buffet, but they contain too much saturated fat and salt to be nutritious.

  • Replace the fried wings with baked versions instead. Brush fresh chicken wings with a low-sodium sauce and bake them until they’re cooked through. Serve them with a low-fat ranch or bleu cheese dressing.
  • Replace the wings with chicken tenders as an even healthier alternative.
  • Roast a turkey breast ahead of time, cut it into thick slices and serve it with whole-wheat bread and sandwich fixings.
  • If you can’t pass up the hot dogs and sausages, look for reduced-fat and low-sodium varieties to keep the snack as healthy as possible.

Cut a small slit in several large jalapenos and stuff the cavities with low-fat cream cheese. Close the slit in the jalapenos using toothpicks. Dip the peppers in beaten egg and then roll them in finely crushed bread crumbs. Bake the peppers until they are golden brown for a healthier take on traditional jalapeno poppers.

Air-popped popcorn seasoned with chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon or Parmesan cheese is a snack high in fiber.

Make sweet potato fries. Cut raw sweet potatoes into wedges or strips, drizzle them with olive oil and roast them until they are golden brown and soft. Season the fries with garlic powder and black pepper or sprinkle them with cinnamon for a sweet version.

Make a batch of chili and serve it in baked tortilla cups and low-fat cheddar cheese for a snack high in fiber and protein.

Here are some of my favorites:

Roasted Eggplant Spread

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Makes 1½ Cups

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into quarters
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Toasted sesame seed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 475°F.

Place eggplant on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly charred and very tender, 20–25 minutes; let cool slightly. Chop eggplant (skin and all) until almost a paste.

Mix eggplant in a medium bowl with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Top with sesame seeds and serve with pita bread or baked pita chips.

Easy Red Pepper Hummus

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Serve with pita chips.

Ingredients

  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained

Directions

With the processor running, drop garlic through the feed tube and mince. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, salt and lemon juice; process until mixture is smooth.

Add roasted peppers and process until peppers are finely chopped. Transfer hummus to serving bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead.) Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

For homemade pita chips:

Cut 8 whole-wheat pita breads into triangles. Place pita triangles on large baking sheets and spray the surface with olive oil cooking spray. Season each with garlic salt. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in a 400 degree F oven, until golden brown and crisp.

Fresh Salsa

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Serve with baked tortilla chips

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

Put all ingredients into a serving bowl, toss well. Chill in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving..

Baked Tortilla Chips

Ingredients

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges.

Arrange the wedges in a single layer on non-stick baking sheets. Lightly spray the chips with oil and sprinkle with chili powder, salt and pepper.

Bake the chips until lightly browned and crisp, 15 minutes. Make sure not to let them burn. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Steak Tapas

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Makes 18

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless New York Strip Steak (or steak of choice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 large plum tomatoes (1/2 cup), seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
  • 2 teaspoons crumbled blue cheese
  • 18 baguette slices (3/4 of a large French baguette)

Directions

Season steaks with salt and pepper.

Grill steaks, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350°F to 400°F) about 8 to 10 minutes on each side.

Broiling Directions

Place steak on the rack of a broiler pan. Broil 3 to 5 inches from heat for 6 to 8 minutes on each side.

Let cool and thinly slice.

Combine basil, rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor. Scrap into a medium bowl. Stir in fresh tomatoes, onion and blue cheese.

Arrange baguette slices on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with steak; spoon tomato mixture evenly over the bread slices.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and the bread is lightly toasted.

Fennel and Prosciutto Flatbread

Photo Editor: Paden Reich, Art Director: Bob Perino, Prop Stylist: Buffy Hargett Miller, Food Stylist: Erin Merhar. Food: Hot Brown Bites, Cheese Ball, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Flatbreads, Shrimp dip, Trout crostini.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pizza dough
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Italian fontina cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator and let stand covered, at room temperature, 30 minutes or until ready to use.

Trim and discard the root ends of the fennel bulbs. Trim the stalks from the bulbs and chop fronds to equal 2 teaspoons.

Thinly slice fennel bulbs lengthwise and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and oregano.

Bake at for 35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Cook prosciutto in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until browned and crisp. Break prosciutto into large pieces.

Turn the pizza dough out on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 17 x 13 inch rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick).

Place the dough rectangle on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) baking sheet. Brush the dough with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven. Turn on the broiler.

Top the baked crust with fontina cheese, fennel slices and prosciutto. Broil 1 minute. Sprinkle with dried crushed red pepper, reserved chopped fennel fronds and the coarse sea salt.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Cut into small squares and serve.

Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs

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Ingredients

  • Small (6 inch) flat metal or bamboo skewers
  • 1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 x 1 x 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Place the chicken in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons each of the mint, cilantro and parsley, salt, cumin, turmeric and pepper. Stir to mix. Stir in the oil.

Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour.

Thread the chicken onto skewers so that the flat side of the chicken will be exposed to the fire.

Set up a grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. Or preheat the broiler.

When ready to cook, oil the grill grate or oil the broiler pan.

Arrange the chicken kabobs on the grill or under the broiler. Cook until golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes per side.

Place the kabobs on a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of mint, cilantro and parsley.

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Sandwiches are one of the most popular midday choices for lunch and, for some, even dinner. They are quick, delicious, and, if properly portioned, an option for losing weight. But if you aren’t careful, a few ingredients can add hundreds of extra calories and make up more than half your daily limit of artery-clogging saturated fat. So make sure you know what hidden calories are hiding between those bread slices. If you make smart choices you’ll create a delicious and healthy sandwich for yourself.

Smarter Choices

Start with whole grain bread slices, a pita, an English muffin or a tortilla. Look for the words “whole grain” near the top of the ingredients list, not just “whole wheat.” Good choices have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Some breads are fortified with extra fiber and contain as many as 12 grams of fiber per serving, helping you achieve the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber a day.

Good sandwich fillings include chicken, turkey, ham, lean roast beef, tuna, hummus and reduced fat cheese. Check the sodium levels in prepackaged and deli meats, since most of those products run high. Cut the sodium by slicing meat you have roasted at home or by asking specifically for meats lower in sodium at the deli.

Vegetables add both nutrients and flavor. Tomatoes, fresh greens (the darker, the better), red onion and peppers are all good choices. Roasted red peppers are especially good and it you like things spicy, sliced banana peppers can do that for you.

Condiments don’t need to be high in fat to have a lot of flavor. There are low-fat, healthful choices that will give your sandwich extra flavor, such as:

— Mustard

— Salsa

— Italian vinaigrette

— Light salad dressings

— Greek Yogurt flavored with herbs and lemon

Crispy Chicken Sub

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Serves: 4

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, divided

Sandwich

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • Four 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 thin whole-grain sandwich buns, toasted
  • 2 cups arugula or shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, dill and lemon juice. Season with 1/8  teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together egg whites, Dijon mustard and remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.

Place panko crumbs in a shallow pan. Place flour in a second shallow pan.

Dredge each chicken breast in flour, shaking off excess, then in egg white mixture. Press cutlets gently into the panko crumbs and transfer to a baking tray or plate.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet on medium-high and saute chicken until golden brown and fully cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Split buns and spread yogurt-lemon mixture evenly onto cut sides of the bread, dividing evenly between the four sandwiches. Layer the bottom half of each bun with 1 chicken cutlet and even amounts of lettuce, cucumber slices and roasted peppers. Cover each with the top half of a the bun.

Smoked Salmon Flatbreads

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces reduced fat tub cream cheese spread with added chives and onions
  • 4 multigrain flatbreads or pitas
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 6 ounces smoked salmon, sliced into strips
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • Ground black pepper

Directions

Spread one ounce of cream cheese evenly on one side of each flatbread. Top with shredded lettuce. Add salmon strips, radish slices and capers to each sandwich; sprinkle with pepper. Fold in half and serve.

Meatball Pitas

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 (6-ounce) cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup feta cheese
  • 1 small garlic clove , minced
  • 1/2 cup grated peeled seedless cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a small baking sheet with cooking spray.

Slice the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into small pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use.

Add the milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Combine the beef, onion, oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt in a medium bowl.

With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from the pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard the milk.

Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined and form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball.

Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, turning the meatballs over halfway through baking, until browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Combine the yogurt, feta cheese, garlic, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top and serve.

Mozzarella and Tomato Panini

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 slices whole grain country bread
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Coat one side of each bread slice with olive oil cooking spray.

Place bread slices on a work surface, coated sides down.

Arrange tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil on four of the bread slices. Cover with the remaining four bread slices, coated sides up; press together gently.

Preheat a panini grill or heat a large skillet over medium heat.

Add sandwiches to the hot panini grill or skillet; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is beginning to melt, turning once if using a skillet.

Serve with balsamic vinegar for a dipping sauce.

Mediterranean Sloppy Joes

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz  lean ground lamb or beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 large  garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes, undrained and cut up
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon dried mint, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
  • 3 whole wheat pita bread rounds, cut in half
  • Toppings: crumbled feta cheese, cucumber slices and chopped Kalamata olives

Directions

In a large skillet cook ground lamb or beef over medium heat until the meat is brown using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.

Drain off the fat and place the meat on a paper towel lined plate.

Wipe out the pan and add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until softened. Add the browned meat, beans, tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, oregano, mint, salt, thyme and marjoram.

Cover and cook on low-heat for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.

To serve: spoon the sloppy joe  mixture into the pita bread halves and add the toppings.

All things previously thought to be good for us are in fact harmful to our health.


hot cup of steaming tomato soup being held in gloved hands

Eating soup to take the chill off during a cold winter day is not its only benefit. Enjoy it regularly to help manage your weight. Studies based on adults who participated in a National Health and Nutrition Survey suggest that there’s a relationship between body weight and soup consumption — meaning weight goes down with more soup intake. Research conducted at Penn State finds that eating low-calorie soup before a meal (think appetizer course) may help you reduce the total calories you consume during the meal — perhaps by 20 percent.

Losing weight can be a challenge because you may feel hungry or deprived when you need to reduce your food intake. Soup can help by filling you up without too many calories and by offering you an option to order at restaurants when you go out to eat. According to the Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fiber and protein are filling nutrients, so choose a soup with ingredients such as vegetables, beans and lean protein.

Soup will not help you lose weight if it is high in calories, so avoid soups such as cheddar cheese or broccoli and cheese soup, as well as cream-based soups, such as cream of mushroom, cream of tomato or white clam chowder. If you order soup in a restaurant and it comes in a bread bowl, save yourself hundreds of calories by refraining from eating the bread bowl. Also skip croutons and other high-calorie toppings that often accompany soup courses. The soup recipes below will fill you up, but won’t add a lot of calories to your daily menu. All of the recipes are quite easy to pull together.

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Vegetable Bean Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots, peeled, cut into small dice
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 onion, cut into small dice
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut into small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon, dried
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon, dried
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 4 cups fresh tomatoes, discard seeds, cut flesh into small dice

Directions

In a large pot, combine all the ingredients except the tomatoes, green beans, white beans and herbs. Simmer over very low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

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Italian Butternut Squash, Kale and White Bean Soup

Italian Kale: Lacinato kale (also called cavolo nero, literally “black kale”, in Italian and often in English) is a variety of kale with a long tradition in Italian cuisine, especially in Tuscany.

This soup comes together very quickly.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 15 oz can cannellini beans (no salt added), drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz Italian kale chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the broth, squash, rosemary, pepper and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the beans and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Simmer uncovered until the squash is just tender, about 10 minutes. Add the kale and cook while stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice, adjust seasoning and serve.

soup2

Meatball & Rotini Pasta Soup

This soup makes a great dinner.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 oz whole-grain or brown rice rotini pasta
  • 8 oz extra-lean ground beef or lean ground turkey breast
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 whole jarred roasted red peppers 
(packed in water), drained and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus
 additional leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cook pasta according to package 
directions for al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine beef, egg whites, oats, parsley, fennel and pepper flakes. Mix well and shape into 24 one-inch balls.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil 
on medium-high. Working in batches, add meatballs and cook, turning frequently, for 
7 to 8 minutes, until cooked through and brown.

To the empty pasta pot, add the broth, red peppers, oregano and salt; bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Add cooked pasta and meatballs and cook until just heated through.

Spoon into serving bowls, sprinkle cheese on top and garnish with 
additional oregano.

soup3

Winter Chicken & Barley Soup 

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/3 slivered almonds, toasted (toast by heating over medium heat in nonstick frying pan, stirring often, until golden brown)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Add oil to a large nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic and sauté until mushrooms are lightly browned (about 7 minutes).

Stir in carrots, diced chicken and broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the barley, cover the saucepan, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about an hour or until the barley is tender.

Turn off the heat and stir in parsley and almonds. Add pepper and salt to taste.

soup4

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup with Parsley Pesto

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and diced
  • 6 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 turnips or baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pint Brussels sprouts, cut in quarters
  • 3 quarts vegetable broth
  • 1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix the onions, carrots, celery, turnips or potatoes and Brussels sprouts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into a roasting pan and place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until caramelized, stirring and shaking the pan occasionally to prevent sticking and to make sure the vegetables cook evenly.

While the vegetables roast add the vegetable broth and chopped tomatoes to a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Gently simmer for 15 minutes and then keep warm.

To make the pesto:

Place the parsley leaves, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese in a blender and puree until smooth.

When the vegetables have roasted, remove and transfer them to the hot vegetable broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.

Pour the soup into serving bowls and serve with a spoonful of parsley pesto.


Kate Hackett Ceramics

Kate Hackett Ceramics

There are many motivations for sticking with a healthy diet. Eating more of the good stuff (and less of the junk) can help you prevent cancer, extend your lifespan, protect your heart and manage your weight. But one thing we don’t always remember is that your diet affects not just your weight, but your body from the inside to the outside. Your body transforms the foods you eat into the cells that make up your hair, nails, skin and bones, along with your brain, heart and joints. You literally are what you eat.

Add lean meats and beans to your diet to help keep your body in hormone balance and prevent hair loss. B-vitamins from leafy greens, peas, tomatoes and carrots also support cell growth for healthy hair.

Essential fatty acids (named “essential” because your body cannot make them) help you grow brain cells and stay sharp, so feed your brain with regular doses of fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil.

The antioxidants for brain health also help the eyes, so include foods with lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants, found in spinach, collard greens and kale, protect the retina from macular degeneration.

Most adults need between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. Low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, almonds, spinach and soybeans are all good sources of dietary calcium.

Boost your vitamin C intake with fruits and vegetables, especially strawberries, oranges, pineapple, cauliflower and green peppers to keep your joints healthy.

Fiber is also essential. Whole grains, especially oats and bran, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables can help you get your daily 20-35 grams of fiber.

Maintain disease-free and healthy looking skin with alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). This antioxidant is more powerful than vitamins C and E and protects your skin cells from damage and many of the elements it’s exposed to each day. ALA can be found in spinach, broccoli and beef. Vitamins C, E, K, and A, as well as B-vitamins, are also important for nourished skin. Enjoying a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables can help you reach the recommended amounts.

Winter comfort foods can be good for you. Sweet potatoes are filled with vitamin A and anything filled with green vegetables will give you a vitamin C boost. Switching up some ingredients for healthier ones in your favorite casserole dishes can improve a recipe’s nutrition. Also, be careful about the amount of cheese, bread and cream in a recipe.

The next time you look forward to making a comforting dish, try out one of the healthy recipes below instead of your usual go-to casserole. Another bonus is that all of the recipes below are between 300 and 350 calories per serving. That leaves some room for a healthy dessert.

casserole1

Meatballs and Bean Casserole

6 servings

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 pound lean ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil for the baking pan

Casserole

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • ½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced celery (1 stalk)
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 2 ½ cups homemade or store-bought tomato sauce (marinara sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • Two 15 ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion tops

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

To make the meatballs:

Mix all the ingredients, except the oil,  together in a large bowl. With wet hands form into 12 equal sized meatballs. (Use an ice cream scoop to make them uniform in size.)

Place the meatballs on the prepared pan and bake the meatballs in the oven for about 25 minutes.

In a large Dutch Oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery; cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add green beans. Cook for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato sauce and oregano. Stir in beans and meatballs.

Cover the pan and transfer the mixture to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes. Uncover. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or until heated through. Sprinkle with green onion tops just before serving.

casserole3

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • ¼ cup fat-free milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces uncooked ground turkey breast or a mix of white and dark meat or lean ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 ¼ cups coarsely diced zucchini (1 medium)
  • 1 cup diced carrots (2 medium)
  • ½ cup frozen yellow corn
  • ¼ cup water
  • One 8 ounce can low salt tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, cook sweet potatoes and garlic, covered, in enough lightly salted boiling water to cover for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender; drain.

Mash the sweet potatoes and gradually add milk and salt, mashing the potato mixture to make a light and fluffy mixture. Cover and keep warm.

In a large skillet cook turkey or beef and onion over medium heat until meat is brown, stirring to break up the meat as it cooks. Drain, if needed.

Stir in zucchini, carrots, corn and water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sage and pepper to the meat mixture; heat through.

Spoon mixture into a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish, spreading evenly. Spoon mashed potato mixture on top of the pie mixture.

Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until heated through.

casserole5

White Bean and Kale Casserole

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups shredded kale (stems removed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • Two 19 ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small saucepan cook kale in a small amount of boiling water for 8 minutes or until tender. Drain well in a colander.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook for 4 minutes or until tender.

In a large bowl combine cooked kale, onion mixture, beans, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs, the oregano, garlic and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart casserole dish.

In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tablespoons bread crumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle over the bean mixture.

Sprinkle with diced prosciutto.

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until heated through and the prosciutto is crispy.

casserole4

Vegetable Pasta Bake

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2 ½ cups cauliflower florets (1/2 medium head)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 12 ounces spinach, stems removed, leaves torn
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large Dutch Oven, cook pasta al dente according to package directions; add cauliflower during the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven cook onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery; cook just until carrots are tender. Add spinach; cook just until wilted. Stir in pasta mixture and peas.

For the cheese sauce:

In a small saucepan melt butter; stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk all at once; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; add cheddar cheese. Cook and stir until melted.

Stir sauce into pasta and vegetables.

Transfer to a 2 1/2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with Parmesan and bake 5 minutes more.

casserole2

Pizza Casserole

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 2 yellow, red and/or green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium zucchini (8 ounces), halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Two 14 1/2 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 fully cooked chicken sausage links, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 lb package pizza dough
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 2-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell peppers; cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add zucchini and garlic; cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes, sliced sausage, half of the Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper to the mixture in the skillet. Bring to boiling; boil gently, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates.

Place pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a knife or pastry wheel, cut pizza dough into 16 strips.

Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon mixture into the prepared dish. Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

Arrange pizza dough strips  on top of the casserole in a lattice pattern. Sprinkle with remaining Italian seasoning. Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbly.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


stewcover

Traditional meat stews can add up to 1,000 calories per serving. The calories really depend on the protein used, as fatty cuts of meat contain more calories. The sodium level can also be off the charts, providing much more than the amount recommended per day. Watch portion sizes, also.

Ground turkey isn’t always the leanest choice – it depends on which part of the turkey is ground. And, while ground turkey breast is the leanest, it can end up rather dry after cooking. The best solution is a combination of white and dark ground turkey meat which will keep the meat moist while saving on calories.

A healthy version of traditional beef stew should use 4 ounces of beef per serving while adding lots of vegetables. To keep sodium under control use a low-sodium beef or vegetable broth. Seafood is also a good choice for stew. Lentils are also a good stew ingredient because they contains both healthy protein and carbs and they are filled with fiber to help keep you satisfied.

So, take control of the ingredients and make your own delicious, healthy stews. Since it is quite cold here in the south today, the Bean and Sausage Stew is on our menu.

stew1

Seafood Stew

8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and 
thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, thyme and basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28-oz can Italian diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 lb littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 lb frozen cooked crab claws
  • 1 lb cod, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 lb sea scallops
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf 
parsley

Directions

In a 5-quart Dutch Oven, melt butter. Add onions and 
cook, stirring occasionally until onions soften slightly, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add celery, fennel, chili, oregano, thyme, basil and cayenne; stir to combine. Add wine, tomatoes, broth and clam juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak clams in cold water for 20 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer clams to the stew pot.  Cover and cook until clams open, about 20 to 25 minutes. Discard any unopened clams. Add crab claws, cover and cook until heated through, about 
10 minutes. Add cod and scallops. 
Cover and cook until the fish is firm, about 
5 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

stew2

Easy Oven Beef Stew

Serves 6; 1 cup per serving

What makes this stew easy? Toss all the ingredients together in a Dutch oven, place it in the oven and forget about it for two hours or cook it all day in your slow cooker.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds lean boneless round steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pat meat dry with paper towels. In a large plastic bag with a tight-fitting seal, combine flour, salt and pepper. Add meat and shake until well coated. Shake off excess flour.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke.

Add half of the beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke. Transfer beef to large plate.

Repeat with remaining beef and oil. Leave the second batch of meat in the pot after browning and add the browned beef on the plate and the remaining ingredients to the Dutch Oven. Mix well.

Cover, place in the oven and bake for 2 hours or until the meat is tender, stirring once or twice during the cooking time. Taste and adjust for salt. Serve hot.

stew3

White Bean and Sausage Stew

6 to 8 servings

Directions

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 1/2 pound lean sweet Italian turkey sausage, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound dried Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 fresh large rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Place on a plate and refrigerate until the beans are cooked.

Add the tomato paste and oregano to the same pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and the bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the sausage is hot. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil.

stew4

Chicken Stew with Lima Beans and Cauliflower 

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco®
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) frozen lima beans (no need to thaw)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped (1/2 – inch chunks) cauliflower (about 1/2 of a large head)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2 minutes. Add chicken thighs and hot sauce; saute until chicken is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.

Add broth, lima beans, tomatoes, cauliflower and thyme; bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the beans are tender. Serving size: one chicken thigh and one-fourth of the stew.

stew5

Pork and Vegetable Stew

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless pork loin cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, medium, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes
  • 14 1/2 oz canned low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, torn
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped

Directions
Combine flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Add pork pieces and shake to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, green pepper and mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté pork on all sides, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Return sautéed vegetables to the Dutch Oven. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until the pork is tender.

Season with salt and pepper, garnish with basil and oregano and serve.


pastacover

Believe it or not, it is possible to eat and cook healthy with pasta. When prepared appropriately, pasta has many positive benefits in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and it can satisfy numerous dietary needs. Pasta is a great vehicle for enjoying other healthy foods that improve your diet as well, such as healthy proteins and vegetables.

The most important thing to remember about pasta is that when you prepare it at home, you have complete control over making sure it was cooked in a healthy manner.

Some tips on how to keep your pasta recipes healthy:

Pay Attention to Portions

First, we nearly always cook too much pasta. The USDA recommends 2 ounces of dry pasta per person, which works out to about 1 cup of cooked pasta per person.

Add Healthy Ingredients

Add sautéed  broccoli, peppers, spinach or sweet onions to your plain cooked pasta and mix in a tablespoon of olive oil for a delicious side dish with your meal. Add garlic, herbs and grated Parmesan cheese for flavor.

Always Use Olive Oil

Avoid saturating the pasta in rich, thick and high-calories fats. This is obvious for Italians, but always try to use olive oil, an unsaturated fat, which assists with the absorption of vitamins.

Choose Lean Proteins

Add drained and rinsed beans, such as cannellini beans or chickpeas, along with the sauce. Other healthy protein options include lean pork loin, grass-fed beef, fish, ground turkey and chicken or lean turkey sausage.

pasta1

Spicy Puttanesca

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 ounces green olives, such as Castelvetrano (Italian green olives), pitted and chopped (1/2 cup) plus extra for garnishing
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon drained capers, chopped
  • One 2-ounce can anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the olives, capers, anchovies, jalapeno and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and the almonds and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 3 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Add the spaghetti and the reserved cooking water to the sauce in the skillet and cook until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the parsley, basil, lemon zest and lemon juice and serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with additional olives, if desired.

pasta3

Linguine with Scallops

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper (chili) flakes

Directions

Toast the pine nuts in a large dry skillet until golden brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same skillet over moderately high heat until very hot. Season the scallops with 1/4 teaspoon salt and put them in the skillet.

Sear until brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and sear until brown on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the scallops to a bowl and cut them into quarters.

In the same pan, heat the remaining oil over moderate heat. Add the tomatoes, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the red-pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the scallops and the pine nuts.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain the pasta.

Add the pasta to the skillet with the remaining 4 tablespoons of parsley. Toss well and serve.

pasta2

Rigatoni with Red Peppers and Spinach

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

Directions

Cook rigatoni according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return pasta to the pot to keep warm.

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Stir in onion, peppers and tomatoes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Sauté, stirring occasionally.

After 5 minutes, add spinach and continue to sauté until the vegetables are tender and the spinach is wilted, about 5 more minutes.

Add vegetables, reserved pasta water and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese to the cooked pasta and gently toss to combine.

Place in a serving bowl and top with basil and remaining Parmesan cheese.

pasta4

Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup soft bread crumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed, plus extra for garnish
  • One 1 1/2 pound head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Directions

Bring a 5- to 6-quart pot of salted water to boiling. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, except cook for 2 minutes less than the time given on the package for al dente. Drain spaghetti and return to the large pot.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat. Add breadcrumbs to the hot oil; cook about 3 minutes or until crumbs are crisp and golden brown, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 clove of the minced garlic; cook and stir until garlic is tender. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the lemon peel and set aside.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt; cook about 3 minutes or until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 teaspoon thyme and the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add cauliflower, broth and capers; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in lemon juice and pepper.

Add cauliflower mixture to the cooked spaghetti. Cook about 5 minutes more or until spaghetti is al dente. Divide spaghetti mixture among six shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Garnish with additional snipped fresh thyme.

pasta5

Chicken, Green Beans and Pesto Pasta

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 pound of penne pasta
  • 8 oz thin green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup of homemade or good quality prepared pesto
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Trim fat from the chicken breasts. If very thick, slice in half lengthwise to create two thin cutlets. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat until melted.  Add in the chicken and sauté until browned on each side and almost cooked through – about 3 minutes per side. Place chicken on a cutting board and slice into one inch pieces and set aside.

Add the white wine to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to deglaze. Lower the heat. Add in the stock and simmer for a few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and allow to simmer until cooked through.

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Add the green beans to the pasta pan for the final 6 minutes of cooking time.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta and green beans.

Add pasta and green beans to the skillet with the chicken. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pesto and add the remaining to the pasta. Stir to incorporate. If dry, add in as much pasta water as needed.

Arrange the pasta on a warmed serving plate and dot with the reserved pesto. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.



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